I know a few teenage friends who just started college this week or are just about to this month. For these young men and women, it truly is a life changing time for them. All of a sudden, they will be living on their own – the majority of them anyway. They will most likely make their own decision on the classes they are going to take in their new school. And some of them even have to cook their own dinner…argh! Ultimately, in four quick years, they pick a career and live a life they are going to shine in.
From the parent’s perspective, there is an old saying that one who spares the rod spoils the child, according to the Christian Scripture. At least that’s what people who believe in physical punishment of children will quote you. I have my doubts about this citation for two reasons. One, I don’t know if it’s actually written in the Scripture. Two, if it is, I think some clever but cruel person hijacked God’s good name and slipped it in. Even if you are the tiger-parent type, and if you are hoary and horrible enough to have used the rod once in a while on your child over the last seventeen or eighteen years, the same submissive child is now living away from home, and your long arm of discipline can’t reach them anymore. Oh my God, I’ve lost control of my child!
So, for strict and lenient parents alike, this is also an uncertain, if not frightening time for them.
As parents, we continue to care and worry, just like we did for the last eighteen years. The only thing that seems to have changed is the expense part. While it was free if your child went to a public school from kindergarten to 12th grade, a public college will deplete your bank account by about $25,000 or more every year, and a private school about $50,000 or more.
Why do we as parents make that kind of sacrifice, one after another, generation after generation? I think it is because we are wired in our DNA to give what we have to our kids. We are not forced to do it; we love to do it.
But what do we expect our kids to get out of college? I don’t think there is a consensus on the response to this question. As a matter of fact, I think there are as many expectations as there are families. But if I were a statistician, I could probably make up the following categories:
- I want my kid to be successful and wealthy, with emphasis on the latter.
- I want my kid to be technical and scientific and make something really important for society. Something tangible, concrete, like Thomas Edison and Graham Bell did.
- I want my kid to be a scholar and philosopher. Although technologies change and advance, human nature does not much. Good morals and clear conscience will always be necessary guidelines for the stability of humankind. The words mankind, womankind, and humankind still spell with K-I-N-D in the end, not with the hashtag of #, or the sign @ in front.
- I just want my kid to be happy. (Because I was pushed so hard by my own parents to become X that I can’t stand it anymore.)
- Others. (You fill in this blank line here.) _____________________________
To those families whose children are freshmen this year, and to those young adults who have to search and struggle through the forks of life themselves, I wish you all of the above – wealth, scientific knowledge, scholarship, high ethics and mores, and above all, happiness.
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